Is baptism necessary for salvation according to Acts 2:38?

Acts 2:38 reads, "And Peter said to them, 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'" Some have read this verse and understood it to teach that baptism is a requirement to be saved. Is this true?

A close look at this passage clearly indicates that baptism is not necessary for salvation. In particular, the Greek language used in this verse is informative regarding the original meaning of this passage. The word translated "repent" is plural in Greek as is "your." The words "be baptized" and "each of you" are singular. The idea is that you (plural) repent and your sins will be forgiven and you will receive the Holy Spirit. In addition, each of you (singular) is to be baptized as a result of your faith.

In addition to the grammatical structure of the passage, the rest of Acts clearly indicates salvation is by faith alone. Peter also taught, "To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name" (Acts 10:43). Later in Acts we read, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31).

In addition to other passages in Acts, the remainder of the New Testament clearly teaches salvation is based on grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." John 1:12 adds, "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." These and other passages clearly note only faith in the resurrected Jesus as Lord is required for salvation.

A striking example is also found in the thief on the cross. When he turned to Jesus in faith, Jesus answered, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:43). This man did not have an opportunity to be baptized, yet Jesus promised he would be in paradise (heaven) that day.

Then what is the role of baptism? Baptism has historically served as the public means of identifying one's life as a follower of Jesus. Jesus Himself was baptized (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22) and commanded His followers to baptize those who came to faith in Christ (Matthew 28:18-20). In fact, those who responded to Peter's message in Acts 2 were baptized that same day, about 3,000 people were baptized (Acts 2:41).

Baptism is an important act of obedience for the new believer in Jesus, but it is not part of salvation.

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